At the invitation of H.E. Mr Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of the Republic of Lebanon and following the Conference on Stability and Security of Rhodes (8-9 September 2016), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus H.E. Mr Ioannis Kasoulides and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic H.E. Mr Nikos Kotzias met in Beirut on November 9th, 2016.
The European Ministers congratulated the people of Lebanon and Minister Bassil for the election of General Michel Aoun as President of the Republic of Lebanon.
The Ministers discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in multilateral fora and exchanged views on regional and international issues, especially on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the wider region. They agreed that the region is full of opportunities to be seized in order to serve the interests of its peoples. They stressed that regional dialogue can serve the common goals of strengthening the relationship between Europe and the Middle East, and further promote solidarity and mutual understanding, emphasizing their stabilizing role in the region
The Ministers agreed on the importance of preserving the plurality in the region as the co-existence of diverse social, religious and ethnic components living peacefully side by side and as the sole guarantor of sustainable democracy and long term prosperity that will be mutually beneficial to the Mediterranean and the European countries. In this regard, they praised to role model of Lebanon as a beacon of tolerance and humanism.
They also stressed the importance and advantages of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation for the countries of the region. They agreed that the region is full of opportunities to be seized in order to serve the interests of its peoples. In this respect, they examined ways to take full advantage, where applicable, of the institutional EU-Lebanon relations, including the tools and means provided by the revised European Neighborhood Policy. They stressed the importance of the EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities for the period 2016-2020 within the framework of the ENP Review, and of the respective Compact Agreement, which will usher in a new page in EU-Lebanon relations. Moreover, they underlined the important role of the Union for the Mediterranean towards enhancing such cooperation.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs discussed the growing global phenomenon of large movements of refugees and migrants at an unprecedented scale. They called for global approaches and global solutions based on shared responsibility and international cooperation.
The Parties praised Lebanon’s generosity but expressed continuing concern about the negative impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s stability, and the alarming consequences of the mass influx of Syrians displaced into Lebanon.
The Minister’s agreed on the need for the EU to explore every possible way of solidarity to support Lebanon, both politically and economically in order to increase its resilience. They agreed that the only sustainable long term solution for the Syrians temporary displaced into Lebanon is their return to their country, including during transition, under a safe and secure environment.
Regarding migration in the broader region of Eastern Mediterranean, they stressed the need for a holistic approach in identifying solutions to this complex and multifaceted issue, putting emphasis on the critical importance of effectively combating the illegal networks of migrant smuggling, where the role and responsibility of the countries of the region are determining, as well as the active solidarity and cooperation of Europe in order to address adequately this challenge of primarily humanitarian character and of unprecedented magnitude for the region.
They also underlined the crucial role of Greece with regard to the reception and accommodation of the refugees, which was appreciated worldwide all the more for the humane way that the refugees are being treated.
The Parties condemned all terrorist activities, expressed concern for the proliferation of terrorism, not only on a regional but also on a global level and underlined the necessity of regional and international cooperation in confronting this threat. They expressed strong concerns regarding terrorism and the immediate threat it represents to Lebanon’s security in terms of the spread of terrorist organizations at its borders. They focused on increasing military and security cooperation and highlighted that safeguarding the security of Lebanon should be a core issue in EU’s policy and the International Community’s approach concerning security in the region. To this end, they underlined the importance of exchange of information on a regular basis, among countries of the region.
They also stressed the need to address the root causes of the region’s conflicts, in order to counter sectarianism, extremism and radicalism, which create a fertile ground for terrorist groups. They reiterated the urgent need for ending the turmoil of violence that has engulfed many regions in the Middle East.
They stressed also the need for a political solution in Syria, safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country and establishing credible inclusive governance providing for the security and the protection of the rights of all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination.
The Parties stressed as well the continuing need for the international community’s support to the national reconciliation process in Iraq and to the country’s national unity and integrity, and called upon all parties in the region to fully respect its sovereignty.
Discussions covered regional prospects of the oil and gas sectors, as well as other energy related activities, in particular renewables (solar, wind, hydraulic etc.), as well as avenues for boosting cooperation and exchanges between their competent institutions and their private sector
The Ministers acknowledged education as a top priority sector and agreed to explore opportunities for further cooperation in this, through the establishment of a network of presidents of universities. This network will focus on research and other forms of cooperation among departments that deal with matters related to history as well as on common innovative projects in universities pertaining to the field of research in green and renewable energy.
The Ministers agreed that enhanced cooperation, especially between Universities and Research Centers, should be sought, establishing a network focused on exchanging views and ideas and promoting contacts between youth and academia.
They underlined their willingness to join efforts for the protection of antiquities and for the preservation and development of historical and archaeological sites, with the view to safeguarding the historical memory of their peoples and the common cultural heritage of humanity, as well as their readiness to cooperate, inter alia, for the protection of underwater cultural heritage.
Finally, the Parties reiterated the importance of pursuing the practical follow up steps agreed upon during the Conference on Stability and Security of Rhodes, together with the other participants, keeping an open door policy for further participation./IBNA